UW ends Spartans' undefeated conference run
MADISON, Wis. -- Knock, knock. Hear that? That's the rest of the conference at the door, Michigan State.
Tired of watching the Spartans eek out tough road wins in the final seconds against other Big Ten opponents, the Badgers took matters into their own hands Tuesday night with a defensive-blitzing, message-sending 67-49 smackdown of Michigan State in front of 19,230 crazy fans at the Kohl Center.
"That was an old-fashioned whoopin'," MSU head coach Tom Izzo said after the game.
After falling behind 1-0 after a Raymar Morgan free throw 89 seconds into the game, the Badgers' usual stifling defense rose to the task and didn't let the Spartans make their first field goal until four minutes into the game. UW jumped out to a 10-1 lead and MSU never got within six points the rest of the game.
The Spartans' starters only combined for a total of 11 first half points and Durrell Summers was the only Spartan to reach double figures as he finished with 11 points. Chris Allen didn't score in the game and reigning Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas only had seven points before leaving with a right ankle injury with 10:41 left in the game.
Meanwhile, UW's offense got hot early and never really cooled off. Sophomore Jordan Taylor scored 10 of UW's first 13 points and finished with 17 on the night. Senior Jason Bohannon led all scorers with 19 points as he hit 8-of-15 shots. Even Rob Wilson came off the bench and scored 10 points while hitting all five of his field goal attempts. It was a complete effort from the Badgers and MSU never had an answer.
Izzo called it Wisconsin's best game of the year and while UW head coach Bo Ryan wouldn't go that far, he didn't exactly disagree.
"We played pretty well. I mean in order to beat a team like that you have to play pretty well," Ryan said.
Not only did the Badgers hand MSU its first conference loss without Jon Leuer, but they also did it without Trevon Hughes for the most part. The senior point guard didn't play the final 16 minutes of the first half because of foul trouble and when he came back, he only scored five points on 2-of-7 shooting.
Enter Jordan Taylor. The sophomore guard who has turned into a bonafide star in the six games UW has played without Leuer, took over the game again, just like he did against then-No. 4 Purdue last month when Hughes was stricken with foul trouble.
On top of scoring 17 points, Taylor continued to his recent near-flawless play at the point. Coming into the game with a +3.89 assist-to-turnover ratio that is tops in the nation, Taylor dished out four assists Tuesday night and only committed one turnover. Amazingly, Taylor only has three turnovers in his last six games and has accumulated 27 assists in the same time frame. That's an unheard of +9.0 assist-to-turnover ratio.
"We replaced a 6'10'' with a 5'10''," Ryan said, referring to Taylor replacing Leuer in the starting lineup. "He's just smart. He just finds ways to get things done. And he cares. He cares about the ball and he cares about the game. Whenever you take care of the ball you are respecting the game."
Already leading the nation in fewest turnovers with 9.4 a game, the Badgers only committed five Tuesday night to 17 assists. Meanwhile the Spartans committed 13 turnovers to only 11 assists.
After the game, Bo Ryan split the credit between his players and assistant coach Greg Gard who drew up the scouting report on Michigan State.
"You gotta give credit to the coach who has been doing the scouting report for Michigan State from day one," Ryan said after the game. "But Greg Gard and what he's done with Michigan State preparation over the years has been outstanding."
So while the fans continue to claim that Bo owns Izzo, score a point for Gard who is a big reason why UW has won seven straight games against the Spartans at the Kohl Center.
By UW's official records -- which only account for the AP Poll -- the win marked the first time UW has won three games in a season at home against Top 10 teams since the 1988-99 season. But when you account for both polls, Wisconsin has topped three Top Five teams this season. Duke was ranked No. 6 in the AP Poll, but No. 5 in the Coaches' Poll.
The win puts Wisconsin (17-5 overall 7-3 Big Ten) within two games of the Spartans (19-4, 9-1) for first place in the Big Ten standings and keeps the Badgers in position to make a run at the conference title. The Spartans still have to play Illinois and Purdue on the road, while also hosting Ohio State. UW, meanwhile, has already finished the tougher half of its Big Ten slate, having played all its regular season games against Michigan State, Purdue and Ohio State.